Ah, May…caught somewhere between Easter and the peak tourist season. Warmer and drier than April, but not as hot as the summer.
In other words, a decent time to visit Vienna. Particularly if you enjoy your music, food and drink, for May is a month full of classical and culinary festivals.
Top activities in May 2024
Exhibitions & fairs in May
(Enjoy the art at the Albertina Modern and Künstlerhaus)
Highlights so far for May 2024 include:
- The Albertina blesses early summer with a large retrospective for Roy Lichtenstein and a solo exhibition for Eva Beresin
- A chance to explore the work of Broncia Koller-Pinell in dialogue with her colleagues from the Wiener Moderne at the Lower Belvedere Palace. The same location also has modernist art from post-1900 Ukraine
- Upper Belvedere takes us into the 18th century world of Franz Anton Maulbertsch and his paintings
- Take a deep dive into the delights of diverse art (in its widest sense) at the Albertina Modern
- The Kunsthistorisches Museum has plans for an exhibition showcasing Renaissance era works, with a focus on Hans Holbein the Elder, Hans Burgkmair the Elder, and Albrecht Dürer
- The Heidi Horten Collection reveals some of its highlights in the We ❤ exhibition, which includes a small exhibition centered around a work by Klimt
- Talking Klimt, the Wien Museum begins an exhibition (on May 23rd) on the Munich, Berlin and Vienna secessionist movements
- Enjoy a couple of photo exhibitions at FOTO ARSENAL WIEN featuring the work of Beate Gütschow and Laure Winants
- Make use of the final days (until May 26th) of the Jewish Museum’s perspectives on peace before viewing their examination of caring or the etchings (and story) of Emil Singer
- May is also your last chance to see the MAK’s major exhibition on textiles and ceramics in contemporary art (until May 20th)
- Shifting to science, discover how AI is changing how we live and work at the Technisches Museum’s thoughtful Smart World exhibition…and enter the world of the Arctic at the Naturhistorisches Museum
For more exhibition choices, keep an eye on the listings as programmes develop.
A couple of bonus tips for those with a hankering for creativity; the following all appeared in May last year (dates TBA at the time of writing unless noted):
- The Edelstoff design market
- The Parallel Editions version of Parallel Vienna that puts the focus on art editions
- The WAMP design market
- Fanzineist Vienna: an international fair that presents self-published and independent publications in creative fields like art, design and literature
For art in its broadest sense, the huge Wiener Festwochen multidisciplinary art festival starts on May 17th and continues through into June with a wide-ranging programme.
And for something a little different, Vienna COMIX (May 25th and 26th) is a fair and convention covering comics in their widest sense with, for example, cosplay and plenty of Star Wars, too.
Bring a glass
(The national drink)
Not all the slopes in Austria are for skiing down.
The country has a lot of vineyards (as does Vienna itself). Last time I checked the statistics, Austrians also drink more beer per head than anybody except our thirsty Czech neighbours.
Vienna’s bars and restaurants allow you to taste the local beverages, or you can visit these festivals in May:
- The city-owned Cobenzl winery usually has an open day mid-May (2024 dates TBA), which is free. Though you do have to pay if you want to try some of the (excellent) wines. The winery also sits on a hill with lovely views across the city
- If the idea of wine sounds tempting, then consider the VieVinum, an international wine festival at the Hofburg palace (May 25th to 27th).
- The Ottakringer Maifest features beer and entertainment at Vienna’s main brewery (2024 dates TBA)
- Lifting the alcohol content a little, the Vienna Gin Festival is scheduled for May 3rd and 4th
Bring a plate
(That famous central European dark bread)
A fine glass of wine or beer goes better with a fine dish of regional food. And, as luck would have it, Vienna has plenty of food festivals in May, too.
- Burgenland is a small province east of Vienna, and the Burgenland Kultinarium festival (May 28th to 30th) encourages you to learn about the area with the help of large quantities of its wonderful food and drink
- The huge Genuss Festival in the Stadtpark city park (May 10th to 12th) showcases the best of Austria’s agricultural and viticultural regions
- The European Street Food festival (2024 dates TBA) typically rolls into town with trucks and stalls tempting you with a wide diversity of culinary delights from around the globe
- The Wiener Zitrustage or Vienna Citrus Days (May 17th to 20th) add a little fizz and colour to the month in the rather apt location of the Schönbrunn Palace orangery
- No prizes for guessing the kind of street food and goods available at Veganmania (May 30th to June 2nd) in front of the MuseumsQuartier
If you want to run off the accumulated calories, the ASICS Austrian Women’s Run takes place on May 26th.
Enjoy the music & celebrations
(The Steffl Kirtag at the cathedral)
The 2024 May festivals don’t end there, either.
- The Vienna Blues Spring festival stretched across the whole of May in 2023, so may reappear this month in 2024, too
- The Donaukanaltreiben festival (next dates TBA) celebrates urban life with a party-like atmosphere down by the Danube Canal that runs alongside Vienna’s city centre. Think live music, bars, street food, flea markets and similar
- The wean hean festival has a series of performances reflecting the Viennese song tradition (2024 dates TBA)
- The Gemischter Satz festival at the Konzerthaus venue combines one of Vienna’s notable wine products with classical music and more (May 10th and 11th)
- The annual Steffl Kirtag fair outside the main cathedral filled half of May last year (2024 dates TBA). Think of it as a hybrid market and funfair, with the emphasis on the former
- The Fest der Freude (May 8th) celebrates the liberation of Vienna and the end of Nazi rule with a free concert on Heldenplatz square next to the Hofburg palace. The Vienna Symphony orchestra performs, with the event also in remembrance of those who suffered at the hands of that occupation
(Heldenplatz – home to the Fest der Freude open-air concert)
Go for a swim (or run)
Vienna’s numerous outdoor public swimming facilities usually open up for the summer from early May. These include:
- Family facilities, with shallow pools and family-friendly prices
- Multipurpose facilities, with both indoor and outdoor pools
- Summer facilities with open-air pools. Look, particularly, for the large recreational areas along the Alte Donau lake, such as the Gänsehäufel
A running event typically held this month is the Wings for Life World Run, with a flagship event in Vienna (May 5th).
Buy some popcorn
(A regular film festival host)
International film festivals normally fill Viennese screens during May. For example:
- The Jewish Film Festival shows local and international movies that explore Jewish life in all its forms and contexts (2024 dates TBA)
- The Ethnocineca international documentary film festival focuses on critical evaluation of social, political and cultural structures (May 16th to 23rd)
- The mini version of the Slash Film Festival featuring all things fantastical (May 9th to 11th)
- The prestigious Vienna Shorts festival with its focus on short-form filmmaking (May 28th to June 2nd)
Enjoy the flowers
(Part of the city’s tulip displays)
By early May, the spring flower displays planted by the city or national parks authorities are normally in full bloom. Try, for example:
- Schönbrunn Palace – the landscaped gardens in front of the palace are gorgeous. But also take the time to drop into the Kronprinzengarten, a privy garden with geometric shapes made of flower beds and different-coloured gravel
- The Rathauspark: the park surrounding the Rathausplatz square in the centre is usually full of tulips
- The gardens between the two Baroque palaces at Belvedere should have a flower or three by now
- The Volksgarten – a public gardens opposite the Rathausplatz and home to hundreds of different rose varieties
- Hirschstetten – a large (and beautiful) landscaped gardens and park area that also serves as a plant nursery facility for the city